Tuesday, September 21, 2004

From Virtuosity
The death of mainline Protestantism?
On one hand good riddance but on the other there's Joe Sobran's well-written appreciation of Protestant Americans, who promoted the ideas in LRC for example.

First, however, I need to deal up front with a critical question. Are Episcopalians Protestants? The answer to this question depends a great deal on which side of the communion rail you stand. Most laity in ECUSA would claim to be Protestants especially meaning that they are not “Roman Catholics, Jews, Orthodox, Muslims, pagans or atheists.” Most clergy, however, do not consider themselves Protestants.
True. The country-club and prep-school set (of George Bush the elder for example) don't consider themselves Catholics! What the writer says of the clergy is also true as a result of Anglo-Catholicism even though the number of ACs among them is microscopic. Many of them aren't Protestants - they're Broad Churchmen, or Unitarians in vestments; some of them (like John Spong) aren't Christians.

For example, by the year 2020 (remember, this is when ECUSA is suppose to double its size) less than 20% of the population will be Christian let alone Protestant! These Christians will be made up of primarily two groups.

* First will be Roman Catholics.
* Second will be a cluster of Conservative Evangelical Churches who follow a free church/ congregational polity.
Fifteen years ago in England I saw that coming there. Probably true of the States as well.

What I want to note for this article is the possible evaporation of one value that exists in American culture and is directly related to our Protestant heritage. That value is “tolerance.” I know that “toleration” has become largely an unpopular and politically- incorrect term in today’s world. When one speaks of tolerating another person or group, it seems to have a pejorative feel about it. But toleration is one of the great contributions of American Protestantism.

With disestablishment after the American Revolution, mainline churches had to learn to live together. Under this umbrella, Jews and Catholics found a place of toleration. Granted this was often barely tolerance, but it was much better than the way they were treated in many European countries.
That nicely echoes Sobran. Again, it paved the way for the freedom that both lets the Catholic faith flourish and respects the rights of man (created in the image of God), LRC-style (one might dare say the two not only aren't mutually exclusive but 'synergistic' to use a corporate-ism), for which thanks.

On the other hand:

By the 1950s, this toleration of one another made possible the great ecumenical decade. Think of the significant fact that by the 1950s no mainline church claimed to be the “true” church. Of course, this was something all claimed even as late as the 1920s.
Quid est veritas?

- Pontius Pilatus

A down side of Protestantism and the seed of its self-destruction! And the cause of the relativism and other ills that David Virtue rightly complains about. So even conservative Protestantism is self-refuting: 'Let's re-create the situation of the 16th century (like the Elizabethan Settlement of Anglicanism) so it can fall apart all over again'.

Atheists don’t tend to be tolerant of other people’s religious views.
Illiberal liberals. True.

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